Purpose is one of the buzzwords of the moment.
There’s good reason for this. Individuals and companies need it. It’s key to providing the focus required to achieve success over the long-term.
Today, most recognize that purpose must be more than simply about making money. We need a higher calling both as people and in our companies, one that motivates us as humans.
If we come to purpose during a time of crisis or as a shortcut to success, it will be tempting to see it as a life raft, rather than a way of life. A life raft may save us from drowning, but it is a quick fix, not a long-term solution.
To navigate life’s choppy and complex waters, we need something that’s built-to-last – a boat.
Unlike Noah, we will not have forewarning of an impending flood or disaster that focuses minds on building a sturdy structure to secure our future. We have to take a leap of faith to know that taking the time to build purpose into our lives and businesses makes sense.
Humans are surprisingly resistant to doing what is good for us. Think weight loss. Or perhaps an even more surprising example – 50% of Americans who are prescribed medication don’t take it as the doctor ordered.
Perhaps we should not be surprised that it often takes a crisis for many of us to think about purpose. It’s when we’ve lost it or need to find it that the importance of purpose is most likely to resonate.
But this is exactly when our thinking tends to be one dimensional and the changes we make temporary. Life raft thinking may lead to disappointing outcomes.
Although we never want to waste a crisis (thank you, Winston Churchill), finding direction before we have the need for direction provides the strongest basis for the investments required to live our purpose and achieve our goals.
When Noah built the ark, he knew why and translated this into plans, timber, and structure designed to withstand the storm of all storms. If we as individuals or companies are to reap the benefits of purpose it needs to be built into our fabric, our instincts and, most important of all, our actions. This takes a conscious effort and long-term decisions.
When we have done the work to ensure that who we want to be, and what we do, are aligned, the value we derive from having a clear purpose is most likely to stand the test of time.
And, when it is about achieving something bigger than ourselves, we are more likely to find the path to realizing the goal of creating sustained social value - a key to long-term success advocated by Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer in their seminal paper, Creating Shared Value, which has shaped much of this discussion over the last decade.
The time to be thinking about purpose – as it is with reputation – is before circumstances force us to focus on it.
Building purpose into our lives and businesses is a long-term project. When the seas are calm and minds are clearest, taking time to think about purpose may be one of your most significant and best investments.
Simon Erskine Locke, Founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatchTM
CommunicationsMatch offers communications & PR agency search tools and resources that help companies find, shortlist, and engage communications, digital marketing and branding agencies, consultants and freelancers by industry and communications expertise, location and size. The site has 5,000 agency and professional profiles in areas including: crisis communications, public relations, internal communications, government affairs, investor relations, content marketing, social media, SEO, website development, photography and video. Prior to founding CommunicationsMatch, Locke held senior corporate communications roles at Prudential Financial, Morgan Stanley, and Deutsche Bank and founded communications consultancies.